Whose in Control of Your Outline?

To plan or not to plan, that is the question that we plan to answer today, but hey, who knows what I’ll end up rambling about by the end of this post!

Anyway, lets just imagine you’re sat here staring at a blank page, you have this idea in your head, this event that has sparked something inside of you, and now, you want to write about it. But! Do you sit and plan it, or do you just start writing?

It’s sounds, and feels great having an outline, having a start and an end, but there’s something else there as well. Something that will throw you off your course if your too meticulous, if you never stray from the outline you created. And that is your characters.

Your characters are the first point and call that your readers will know off, their the ones who might tell the story, or show the reader how the story ends up; and most of the time, they grow and stray away from the people you thought they would be, and with that, comes plot holes and mistakes and things that wouldn’t necessarily happen if the characters were allowed to grow naturally with the plot.

Obviously, if your characters are already full developed before you start on the outlining of your plot, it’s much easier to plot it, and to stick to it and not have all those plot holes, etc. However, your characters need to be willing to take control and drive your plot where you want it to go, and for this, you need to know how they will react to certain things, and you have to make them real people.

Obviously, you could sit and write a profile about them. You know, all the basic things – name, age, appearance, personality, but, they also have to grow, they have to develop, because every day changes you, so it should change you’re characters as well. It makes them more relateable, and more real for the reader, and sometimes, you won’t know how a character will react until you’ve written about them going through whatever you want them to go through.

For example, do you know straight off the bat if they: Would give a penny to a homeless man? Would they choose to spend a night in or go out? Would they live without regrets? Would they sacrifice themselves for a stranger? Would they lie? Would they kill? Would they fall in to a depression?

The only way you’ll truly know is if you write about it. You know the events and tests that your character is going to go through, and how they end up will depend on them. With enough planning, it can work, you can flesh out your characters perfectly, and they will do and act the way you want it to happen, but, then perhaps you feel like adding something different, and you don’t want to because you feel like you need to keep to the plan that you’ve written.

It’s good to plan your novel, or short story, especially if it’s intricate and complex (even if it isn’t, its good to plan), but you need to remember that it’s a tool to help you, and the last thing you should do is let it be restrictive. The structure of it has to be flexible, and it has to cater to the people you put in to the plot as it can feel like they’ve completely taken over – which can be hard if you’ve already planned it.

My current WIP is a big quadrilogy, and it’s been planned in the sense that I know what’s semi-going to happen, and who’s going to die, who’s going to live, and how they get from the beginning to the end, but I’ve not outlined it in the sense that I know every little bit of how the story will go. Perhaps I let the characters dictate the plot too much, but, half-the-time, it never wants to go the way I want it to, and, it’s kind of exciting to learn about the characters in their own way then plan out the way I want their lives to go. I think if they have the same mind-set as you, they somehow work towards that end goal you have planned, just a bit differently to how you plotted it out.

So, I think what you really need to is sort of be a planster, which I guess is the word for someone between a planner and a non-planner. The plot needs to be flexible, because you can plan from the beginning to the end and something might happen, you might get a wave of inspiration for a new character who wasn’t necessarily part of the plan, or the end of a character might feel more right than letting them go on.

And whether you plan it or not, editing is horrible, but is also a writers best friend. And, you can start writing even without a definitive plot!

Obviously, it’ll be different for each person, but I know people who have been planning for years and never get to the writing.

Sometimes its better to just start writing and plan it along the way! And that way, you will find whats best for you!

I hope you have a great day, and…

Just Keep Writing!

Jade

My Characters Don’t Know What They’re Doing Half The Time

These last few weeks, as I been going through my manuscript, I’ve been thinking a lot about the personal journeys all my characters are going through. Some have nice cushy lives until some unexpected guests turn up, and some have been thrown in to the wilderness to survive and hope for the best… Half the time, they have no idea what their doing, even experienced Knights have no idea what their doing. I do, I know what their doing and what they need to do, but I hope with this indecisiveness, that somehow, I’ve been able to make my characters feel more real!

For me (and most people, whether your young or old), I still don’t have any idea what I want with my life, not truly. I obviously want to publish books and all that, but there’s a large chunk of my life that I don’t know where its going… Just like my poor characters!

In most of the books that I’ve read, the characters, I don’t think, have enough indecisiveness in their lives and I think it’s really important that they do. I think more characters need to not have a clue what they want, they may have something their given, or are heir too. Say a prince or a princess. But, I want my characters to question these things, to say. ‘Perhaps I don’t want to be one… Perhaps I do… Maybe… Well… I don’t know’

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with character knowing what they want, perhaps they know it straight away, and that’s fine. My main antagonist knows what he wants, he knows – just about – how to get it and he’s determined to do it. His reasoning may not be the best, especially for some of the things he does, but, at the end of the day, he does have his reasons, and to him, their true.

In my WIP, my characters are all changed by the end of it, some for the very worse, some for the better, but, for a good chunk of it, their not sure what their supposed to do. They don’t know who to trust, or who to follow, or even if they trust themselves. Some get really depressed, and some contemplate killing themselves. Some just walk in to a forest full of monsters and never come back (this happened, and I cried, because I didn’t realise it needed to happen until I edited it, the scene still makes me feel sad now, and it’s been a few months).

So, I guess, it’s a trait of many people in real life that doesn’t always seem to cross over to books, or stories so much. I know it can be a bit frustrating the character not knowing what they want to do, or be, or where they want to go; even when it’s really obvious to the reader, but, the whole point of a book is making this world you created some-what believable, and I think it’s a great way off adding this realistic part to it…

At the end of the day, you know what you want your characters to do, even if they don’t, and your job is to put them through all their trials and tribulations and learn with them; learn what they like, what they fear, how they deal with different things. It’s okay if they changed their mind half way through, perhaps they won’t be that hero you wanted them to be, or they won’t be that sort of villain that you planned, but that’s just the joys of writing a book isn’t it?

You can plan the whole thing, and have a completely different plot by the time you type the end…

What traits do your characters have that make them that little bit more realistic? I’d loved to hear them!

Happy hump day guys

And,

Just Keep Writing!

Jade

Writing: Don’t worry about how long it takes!

I had something really nice scheduled for this weeks post, but instead of peanut butter cookies, a perfect treat for all us writers may I just add, I’ve decided to write this!

I always find that writing is the easiest way for me to express myself, and even make me decide what’s best in some situations. This time, it’s all about how long it takes for you to finish your novel, or anything in life really (perhaps your saving for a house, a dream holiday, perhaps your working your ass off for a promotion you think your never going to get). It all boils down to one thing.

For me, it’s all about my ‘finished’ manuscript. These last couple of weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that my current WIP needs a revamp. I know, in an older blog post that I said that you never know when your novel is finished, not really, and that sometimes, you have to stop and take it to the next level, and I did that, I finally sent it out to agents, even got my first rejection letter, but I don’t know if it’s the books I’ve been reading lately, or just the doubts in my head that are trying to tell me that I need to take that step back.

I put my heart and soul in to ‘Tales of Monsters’, the first manuscript of four that I will finish some day, and there’s things in there that I could never change, things and people that are going to stay in there forever, but now I’ve been focusing on writing the second book (which I had already started writing, maybe three or so years ago) I’ve realised even more, as the story is progressing, that there are more inconsistencies in my plot, that some niggily little things just don’t add up, and they might be small in the first book, but in the second book, their so much more important than I’d thought they be.

Also, the more I write, the more I learn about this world.

I know it doesn’t help that I introduced a whole new group of characters, almost like an alternate story line about five drafts in, and before that, this character (and all the others who were never meant to be) wasn’t going to be introduced until maybe the third book, but, in the grand scheme of things, and the place he ends up, I needed to get to know him much sooner than I thought.

This story just started off as a Princess being chased from a burning castle, being chased by monsters and bandits, and all the bad, horrible things, and then ending up where she still ends up. It was all going to be about her and her journey, but she’s not the sort of person (or character, or whatever) to lead this sort of thing, and I only realised that as I got to know her more. I love her, but, the more I wrote, the more I understood where this was all going to end up.

It turned in to so much more than I could ever have imagined, includes so many things I thought it would never include. I built a whole world, or at least five Kingdoms, all with different people, all with different beliefs, all with different prophecies and ethics and morals, and I love what I’ve written in the first book, but I need to go back to it, I need to do that one last draft.

It is still out there in the literary agent world, festering in their inboxes, and we’ll just have to see how it goes. It’s not changing dramatically at any rate, I’ll probably have to cut about 40,000 words anyway, so I might as well start now.

‘Tales of Monsters’ might not be the first book I publish, I have so many idea’s for other novels and ‘stand alones’ that maybe they’ll beat her to it, but I love it enough to never give up on it! Even if I don’t ever publish it, it will be finished one way or another.

I’m also thinking of going down the route of beta readers. I use my parents and family, but I think I need to stop being so worried and just put it out there more. So, if anyone likes a bit of fantasy, a little bit of magic, some deadly prophecies and a bit of doom and gloom (more adult than YA I think, but still probably okay to read if your a bit younger), then send me a pm or leave a comment, and when I’ve finished with the edit, I’ll send it over to you!

For now, I think I’ll just keep posting little snippets of my story – the ones that are there to stay – on my instagram (jlmwrites) – and trying to better explain what this whole world I created is all about. It’s amazing how inspirational it can be creating pictures and drawings for the world your created, and having the support from other writers that are in the same boat as you (and obviously start working on that ‘final’ draft).

I guess what I’m trying to say is not to get discouraged, whether it’s because it takes so long to plan it, write it, edit it; whether it’s not working, you can’t find the time, or the motivation. If you believe in the end result, if you can put your hand on your heart and say that you can and will give your all to this book, then keep going, it might take five years, it might take even longer, but when it’s meant to happen, it will.

Also, don’t feel bad about realising that you might have to take a step backwards, whether it’s rewriting a chapter, the whole book, rethinking a whole plot idea or just, anything, you’ll get there in the end if you believe in yourself.

You can’t rush art, and don’t rush something that’s important to you. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t compare yourself to that person who finished their manuscript, they went through everything your feeling right now. You are not alone, and most things in life never go to plan, so don’t worry so much about that finish line, enjoy your writing, because if you stop enjoying it, if you worry too much, it may turn in to something you resent, and that’s the last thing you want!

Just keep writing, don’t give up and like I said, when it’s meant to happen, it will. It doesn’t matter how long, just that you keep going!

Finding Inspiration

So, here’s a couple of ways that help me find my inspiration and beat that dreaded thing called writers block. Hopefully it’ll help you too.

  • Explore

I think exploring is the best. You can find all sorts outside whilst your exploring. You can even go and explore a certain setting.

Maybe a cathedral, church, mosque or other religious building

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Maybe a pebbled beach at sunset

A forest path;

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An old street in a Spanish Town

Or the zoo…

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  • Images

It could be one you’ve taken or maybe one you’ve found on the internet. If you’re looking for a certain type of inspiration; maybe you’re writing a crime novel; just type your scenario in to google images and see what you get. You could even make a collage of images if that helps you.

  • Books

Books are usually a writers first inspiration. They can take you away to place you’ve never been before and allow you to escape. Their one of the reasons why so many writers write, because they want to create their own worlds that they can escape in to.

Whether or not the genre is the same as the one your working on, idea’s can be taken from the characters, the scenes and the scenarios to help you create you own. Nowadays, there aren’t many ideas that haven’t been written about, but you just have to remember that it’s never been written by you, and every story written is different from the next.

  • Movies/TV Shows

This is similar to books. The big screen can bring characters to life, give you a different depth of understanding in to how people work, how they walk, how they hold themselves, and how scenarios that you don’t usually see in every day life pan out.

As much as we want to believe that werewolves and ghosts do exist, if their anything like their on-screen counterparts, we’re very unlikely to see them out and about. So, both movies and TV shows can give you that, and the films and shows nowadays can be so immersive and make you feel so much that you can’t help, but want to create your own scenes in your head, which can then become a FanFiction, or something different all together.

For example, despite what you think of E.L James Fifty Shades, Twilight and vampires was it’s inspiration and now almost everyone knows about Christian Grey and Anastatia Steel.

  • Video Games

Video games let you escape in to different worlds in a different sort of way to books and movies. It can allow you to be creative, to make your own decisions and face the consequences. It gives you a first person experience and whether it’s an open world type of game or story driven, the feelings and the emotions that it can give you can be taken from it and developed in to something else.

For me, Skyrim is the biggest influence in my current piece. It’s the game that gave me the idea in the first place, and now it’s developed, only elements of it still remain, but every time I play it, it almost gives me the motivation to write more and finish. Games like the Elder Scrolls and Fable have always been favourites of mine, and there are so many games out there that there’s something for everyone. From Lego adventures to Halo Wars.

  • Dreams

It is said that you can dream four to six times per night, but most of us forget 95 to 99% of our dreams. And even if we do remember it, it’s normally just snippets or feelings. Dreams can be a look in to how your feeling, give you inspiration to work on a project and even help you solve problems you might be facing in your every-day life.

In your dreams, you can have your very own adventures, some of which can end with you saving the world or falling over a cliff (which gives a much realer feeling than you think). Some can be so weird that you don’t want to remember them, but others can leave a mark on you.

They say that the way to remember your dreams is to actually tell yourself as your falling asleep that you want to remember them, and then the second you you wake up, write down what you can remember on some paper or a notebook that you keep close to your bed. Even if you can just remember snippets or images, write it down and it’ll help train your brain to remember more.

You can find out more about this at Sleep.org

  • People

People are everywhere! Their all around us and every one has their own story. Family, friends and work colleagues can all inspire you.

It can be really creepy watching people and listening to what they say, but you can gain so much from it that a little bit of eaves-dropping in a cafe or on a bus may influence your next story. And, just having a wider perception of people and just being more observant can help you learn more about a person, how they hold themselves, how they walk, how they talk. Everyone does it differently and taking aspects of people can help you make up your own.

  • Travel

It doesn’t need to be anywhere exotic. It can be a road trip, or maybe just a week away to Butlins. It could even be a family holiday. Not many of us get the opportunity to travel where we want, but if you ever do, or if you ever want to do it, justgo. Your not going to regret it. You’ll regret it more if you don’t.

Travelling lets you learn about the world, about the different cultures and the different histories that a country can have. It can also give you settings and people that you don’t usually walk in to.

I recently went to Ibiza and the view and the culture inspired me to think about all the settings and scenes where my stories take place, and all the little wonders that can be hidden inside a cave or down an alley way.

  • History

History can teach us a lot, whether it be about the people that died in the cold war or who created the telephone. It can give us idea’s on how to create cultures, religions and build our worlds; it gives us hundreds and thousands of people that lived very different lives to what we live now, and there are thousands of untold stories that lie in the back of a history book or on a shelf somewhere in the library.

Whether your book is a fantasy, a romance or even a comedy, using an era in history gives you an already made world you can use to write your story. Access to the internet means that almost every historical event is at your finger tips, every historical figure has something written about them somewhere.

  • Cultures and Religions

Like I said above, history gives us an insight in to how cultures and religions worked before, but there are so many now and the world is becoming more and more diverse every day that you don’t need to look back. There’s so many books and internet articles on the different types of cultures and religions in the world that there’s bound to be one that jumps out of you, and you can adapt it the way you want,

When writing, having a culture that people listen too, or something that they all believe in and follow can make it that bit more believable. Even if it’s something you’ve made up, maybe all the women over the age of thirty five have tattoos on their arms for some reason or another. It’s completely up to you, but having consistency in a story can make it seem more real, and more immersive.

  • Music

Music, although, it won’t always help you to create a world, it can give ideas for characters, for plots or even scenes. It can even be a playlist that motivates you and inspires you to write.

Artists write about how their feeling, about what they’ve been through and it gives you an insight on how someone might feel in a certain scenario and there’s definitely a song out there to describe the way you want your character to feel, or about the choice they have to make.

For me, The Kill and Attack by Thirty Seconds to Mars helped me develop a character and a back-story for a project that at the moment, is on hold, and various songs by Panic! at the Disco and Imagine Dragons, just to name a couple, helped me develop my current piece.

  • Art

Art can be used in a similar way to photos and images. You can search on the internet, go to a museum, a gallery, or to the local alley where all the kids leave their marks in graffiti. Almost everything around you is part of an art, whether it be a book case, a bed, a house, a park. Everything has an architect, someone that designed and created it.

You can even create your own. By drawing or painting (whether your good at it or not) a certain setting, a place, a character or an object from the world you’ve created, you can make it feel more real, more believable.

I’ve seen a lot of people say that you shouldn’t create your own book cover. Leave it to the advertisers, the marketers, but if creating a book cover inspires and motivates you, do it. Do anything (within reason) that helps to inspire you, to motivate you to write.

People are their own architects, taking bits from every thing and every one they meet. Inspiration can be found absolutely anywhere, you just have to open your eyes and look for it. Take the longest route home, give yourself a couple of moments in the day just to look around, inspiration will hit you.

Twenty Writing tips

I’m no expert, but one of my favourite things is to write stories and create my own little worlds!

But, alas, like everyone, I suffer from writers block. It can last days… months… Sometimes, I just feel too busy to be inspired, and other times, I sit down and just can’t put anything to paper. But I’ve found ways to beat it. Here are some tips that I’ve gathered on my journey as a writer, and hopefully, they can help you write the story you always wanted too:

  1. Make sure you do your research! For example, if your story is set in Tudor times; look up the clothing; what they ate; what roles they had. If a character is ill or murdered, research the symptoms, the causes; the way someone would die if they had their heart ripped our by a werewolf! Research, research, research! It may make your history look terrible, even questionable, but as a writer, you need to know what your writing about before you can write it! It can make a story more believable if you know how much blood your hero can lose before dying!
  2. Try and write everyday! It doesn’t need to be a story. It could be a blog post, an essay, an idea; even writing about your day in a journal will help.
  3. Use prompts! You can find numerous challenges on the internet, and you can even use prompts to help you complete the piece your working on. Just relate the prompt to your story and you may come up with a new scene all together!
  4. Write first, edit later! Remember that you can’t edit a blank page! (I am the worse for this, especially if there’s a complicated scene). If you write something your not happy with, use the highlighter tool so you can go back to it later. Usually, when I go back this way, the stories more developed and I have a better idea of how I want it to read.
  5. When writing, use what’s best for you! Some people prefer the old pen and paper, and some prefer to sit at their laptop. Some may even use a typewriter! It’s all about what makes you comfortable.
  6. Have a little notebook where you can jot down all your ideas! Some may find that a jotter pad or a reporters notebook is good enough for them, but don’t be afraid to get something a little more expensive! I found that after going to WHSmiths and getting an A5 moderno notebook, I’ve been inspired to write more! It gives you a space to create characters, scenes and brain storm to your hearts content!
  7. Said! Laura said, Robert said, I said! It may sound repetitive at first, but it makes a story flow so much easier if you write Aran said instead of Aran questioned, asked, replied, etc! When you think about it, it makes so much more sense!
  8. Let others read it! You may think that your story has lost that excitement and feeling it had in the beginning, but remember that you’ve looked over it hundreds of times and know every spoiler, every loop hole! Having another set of eyes on your work could inspire you to write more, to write better! It doesn’t need to be an agent, or a publisher, it could be a friend, a parent! Just ask them to be honest!
  9. Have an app on your phone or your notebook handy at all times! You’ll never know when inspiration will strike! I find that whenever I have a spare moment, whether I’m sat on the train or waiting for something, I’ll sit on my phone and write a scene for something that hasn’t even been mentioned yet!
  10. Have somewhere to write! It could be your bedroom, your office, your front room, maybe even a coffee shop! Just have somewhere you feel you can concentrate! It won’t be the same place for everyone. Some people need quiet, others might like a bit of background noise.
  11. When writing, you don’t have to start at the beginning. If a scene or an idea strikes you that would be better suited to the middle or end of your story, just write it! You can put it all together later! Sometimes, people find it easier to start writing from the middle and going outwards.
  12. Join writing communities! It could just be a page on Facebook that gives out some helpful tips and tricks, or maybe a forum where you can ask questions! Even following other writers and publishers on twitter can help inspire you! For me, I liked ‘The Writers Circle’ on Facebook and enjoy seeing the handy tips and prompts that they put up every once in a while.
  13. Have a thesaurus handy! Some say its better to have a hard copy next to you, but thesaurus.com is just as good and will help you block out all those repetitive words you see sprawled across your text!
  14. Read books! I think this is the most obvious! Reading, whether its the same genre that your working on or a completely different one will help to inspire you! It can give you different outlooks on how to write, and make your writing better in the long run! I’ve found that being a reader also helps you spell so much better!
  15. Explore! It doesn’t need to be a mysterious path in a forest, or a climb up a mountain! It could just be a stroll down the street, up the park or maybe a road trip! Just open yourself up to your surroundings. The world is full of inspiration in every single nuke and cranny, it’s just waiting to be discovered by you!
  16. Read it out loud! This will help with anything you write! It’ll let you know how well it all flows and whether or not your dialogues make sense.
  17. Make sure that when you do sit down to write that you keep yourself hydrated! Whether it’s a coffee (yuck), a tea or a bottle of water, staying hydrated will keep your mind more focused.
  18. Open yourself up to other types of inspirations! Watch a movie, a TV show, play a videogame, listen to some music, go to a museum! Just because it’s already been done doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Nowadays, every idea has been explored by one person or another, but it’s not been done by you!
  19. Be passionate about what your writing! Don’t write because you want to become a famous author, write because you want to know what happens in your story from the beginning to the end! If your passionate about what you write, the people who read it will be too!
  20. Believe in yourself! That’s the best advice that anyone could give you.